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Books, Journals, New Media
August 17, 2005

Nursing and Health Care

Author Affiliations
 

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia Campus, Virginia Commonwealth University.

JAMA. 2005;294(7):848-849. doi:10.1001/jama.294.7.848

Suzanne Gordon, an award-winning journalist and frequent contributor to the Boston Globe, New York Times, and Washington Post, has written a wide-ranging and sometimes exasperating but ultimately worthwhile book about the current state of nursing and health care.

The first section, “Nurses and Doctors at Work,” portrays with great empathy—and more than an occasional lapse of reportorial objectivity—the frustrations of today’s registered nurses in an environment in which hospitals are financially strapped, physicians overworked and stressed, patients incredibly sick, and nurses’ work under-appreciated and frequently invisible. Physicians are often portrayed as callous, deliberately and sometimes offensively dismissive of nurses’ contributions to patient well-being. The nurses Gordon describes in multiple anecdotes are almost always clinically astute and are frequently the first, occasionally the only, professionals to observe, interpret, and respond appropriately to signs and symptoms that foretell disaster for the patient. Despite the horror stories of disasters and averted disasters, Gordon fortunately places the issues of nurses and doctors at work in a larger historical and sociological context. In the last chapter in this section, “Making Matters Worse,” she discusses the social construction of nursing and how its roots in the church—“the fusion of nursing and moral virtues” (p 128)—continue to affect nursing (and the often conflict-fraught relationships between nurses and physicians). This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.

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